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CMS votes for early in-person learning, fully remote by week 3

Week 3, starting on Aug. 31st will have all students learning remote until further notice.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In an emergency meeting on Wednesday evening, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education approved Plan B-Plus Remote for reopening schools on Aug. 17.

The approved plan will have the first two weeks of school on rotation among small groups involving in-person and virtual learning. Week 3, starting on Aug. 31st will have all students learning remote until further notice.

The vote passed 7-1. One member abstained.

“We are confident that Plan B-Plus Remote is the best plan for educating our students,” said Elyse Dashew, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education chairperson. “We want to provide a rigorous educational experience in the safest way possible for our students and staff.”

THE LATEST: School reopening plans listed district-by-district

The onboarding period will consist of students being assigned to one of three groups; one-third of students will be assigned to group A, the next one-third will be assigned to group B, and the next one-third to group C. Students will attend in-person onboarding instruction on their group’s assigned days within the first two weeks of the school year.

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After the onboarding days, Plan B-Plus Remote will offer a remote learning environment for all students, which also provides the flexibility for more teachers and staff to work remotely.

Starting in week three – when remote learning begins – students will not receive in-person instruction. CMS buildings will be open for staff for essential functions.

The CMS plan is designed to address worsening COVID-19 conditions and was an option given to districts by N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper in a statewide announcement on Tuesday.

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“This is a difficult time for families with hard choices on every side,” Cooper said. “I am committed to working together to ensure our students and educators are as safe as possible and that children have opportunities to learn in a way that is best for them and their families."

District leaders and teachers have collaborated with education experts from across the country to prepare a more rigorous and engaging remote-learning program for all students at all grade levels.

“Our first priority is to provide access and equity in the learning experience for each of our students,” Superintendent Earnest Winston said. “Our staff is developing dynamic programs that will engage and inform students in exciting ways as they move into the new school year.”

CMS will communicate additional details about the plan in the coming days and weeks. Parents are encouraged to update their contact information with their schools to ensure they receive this timely information. Parents should also expect to receive information from their child’s school with specific information related to the first two weeks of school.

CMS did not go onto detail about how long the remote learning only option will last.

This discussion comes one day after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper issued his official guidance on reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Cooper announced local school districts can open under Option B, a mix of in-person and remote learning, or Option C, which is all remote learning. CMS leaders have planned for three possibilities, including all in-person classes, which were not approved by Cooper or state leaders.


Charlotte teachers express concerns

According to a survey of 12,073 CMS employees ahead of the board meeting, 1,306 requested alternative work arrangements or working remotely due to COVID-19, according to the documents obtained by WCNC Charlotte. Fifty-four employees applied or intend to apply for a leave of absence related to COVID-19, and 10,651 employees plan to remain in their current school assignment and report in-person to work as directed by a principal or supervisor.

Anthony Tate, a Southwest Middle School teacher, and some of his colleagues started a petition online calling for CMS to go with Plan C to start the school year.

“Specifically where we are with the metrics and the cases that if we start with online education, then we have a better chance of seeing those numbers fall,” Tate said, “and then we can reevaluate and see if we can implement something like Plan B starting in like the next semester."

The petition brings up 16 questions and concerns teachers have regarding the upcoming school year. These questions include: 

  • What will be the protocol when teacher/student/staff tests positive?
  • What about if a teacher/student/staff family member tests positive?
  • Will teachers/staff be paid for time off if positive or required to quarantine?
  • How will teachers/students/families be notified of positive cases?
  • Who will conduct daily symptom checks of teachers/students/staff?
  • Will teachers receive hazard pay for resuming in-person instruction during a known pandemic?
  • Will students face disciplinary consequences for failing to wear/maintain access to face coverings?

"Keeping up with behavior and keeping up with making sure that they are learning what they need to learn is going to be much more difficult than it would be if we have a completely online environment,” Tate added.

The petition states that the current data available is “not sufficient to support the resumption of in-person instruction that ensures the safety of students, teachers, and their families.”

“We feel Plan C is a very good way to start the school year just so we can see those cases fall and see where we stand moving onto like the second semester,” Tate said.

Justin Parmenter, a CMS teacher at Waddell Language Academy and region 3 director for the North Carolina Association of Educators, said that he is supportive of Plan C given the current COVID-19 data the state is seeing.

“It just does not seem like at a time when our infection rates are increasing, and we’re setting new records every day in North Carolina for the numbers of deaths and new hospitalizations,” Parmenter said, “this just does not seem like the time to think about relaxing our guard.”

Parmenter said he would like to see a goal or benchmark set for the COVID-19 data and number of cases that would determine when it is safe to go back inside school buildings.

"It breaks my heart to advocate for, you know, keeping students at home,” Parmenter said. “I mean, it goes against everything that I believe as an educator, except for the fact that, you know, that we have to make sure that first and foremost that we're focusing on keeping our students safe."

Even though the state has released plans on paper for the protocols that schools, teachers, and staff must follow, Parmenter said it can be difficult to implement and adhere to those items with insufficient resources and staffing.

He worries that if schools do open up for in-person learning that there could be a potential spike in COVID-19 cases that could force a school to shut back down again.

"I worry that we're going to see outbreaks in our schools and see, you know, students and staff taking the virus home that they didn't even know they had,” Parmenter added.While Parmenter said he believes Plan C is the safest option for now, he said, “None of the options are options that we want to choose."

Gov. Cooper said if the state's coronavirus trends continue to go in the wrong direction, remote learning could be mandatory for all schools.